May 23 2014
In a previous post, I wondered why the president seemed so slow on the uptake with the VA scandal. After all, I theorized, while the IRS may be a sacred cow of the president’s allies (higher taxes! higher taxes!), making his unwillingness to reform the IRS understandable, the VA is no such thing. This is the military, for heaven's sake, which is alien territory to President Obama and his base.
Did I ever get a wrong number! Far from being ideologically irrelevant to the left, the VA, as Rich Lowry writes, has very special meaning for them. Lowry’s column is headlined “The VA’s Socialist Paradise.” It begins:
For the left, the Department of Veterans Affairs is how health care is ideally supposed to work. No insurance companies, no private doctors, no competition — just the government and the patient.
Paul Krugman, The New York Times columnist, has held up the VA as a model for the entire country. The Washington Monthly ran a famous article in 2005 arguing that the VA was leading the way for U.S. health care. The socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, is such a reflexive defender that in an instantly notorious interview on CNN he pooh-poohed the burgeoning scandal that may involve fatalities with the undeniable observation that “people die every day.”
The VA is an island of socialism in American health care. It generally provides adequate care — to a limited universe of people and for only certain conditions — but has been plagued by scandal for decades. It is perhaps the worst bureaucracy in the federal government. As with all such single-payer-type systems, the cost of the notionally free health care is in the rationing, in this case the wait times that have had desperately ill vets hung out to dry for months.
The mess at the VA, which has led to substandard medical treatment for vets and long—possibly fatal—waiting periods before the vet can even see a doctor, is what happens when an “unaccountable bureaucracy” is in charge, Lowry writes.
In a way, the VA may be in some respects a (lazy) worker’s paradise:
The VA system worked for everyone but the patients — and the whistleblowers. The daughter-in-law of a Navy vet in Phoenix who died after never getting follow-up for his “urgent” case was told, in lines that perfectly capture the spirit of socialized medicine, “It’s a seven-month waiting list. And you’re gonna have to have patience.”
The Wall Street Journal says that liberals are upset about the VA scandal in part because it reveals “the failure of what liberals have long hailed as the model of government health care.”
The Wall Street Journal urges us to get ready for the standard liberal reply to any crisis: we aren’t spending enough money. But this isn’t true, as this article makes abundantly clear.
Knowing that the troubles at the VA are not good for ObamaCare, the left is urging the president to “fix” the mess. My guess is that President Obama, being President Obama, is more likely to try to find a way to ignore or minimize it.